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Mallard: Resource Recovery and Carbon Emissions

Hon Trevor Mallard

Minister for the Environment

20 August 2008 Speech Notes

Embargoed until: 12.30pm

Resource Recovery and Carbon Emissions: what’s up in New Zealand

Environment Minister Trevor Mallard’s speech at the Zero Waste and Zero Carbon Conference, Hotel Ashburton, Racecourse Road, Ashburton

Hello and welcome to the Zero Waste and Zero Carbon conference. It is a pleasure to be here today and I would like to offer my thanks to Zero Waste Trust and Wastebusters Trust Canterbury for organising this event and inviting me along.

It’s great to see the community increasingly focusing on the impacts climate change will have on New Zealand’s environment and economy. This conference aims to further refine that focus by identifying the connections between climate change and resource recovery.

I have been asked to outline New Zealand’s efforts to address climate change issues, and how these policies relate to resource recovery and the waste sector in general.

Climate change and waste initiatives

Issues such as resource recovery and climate change are fundamentally linked. When we consider the possible impacts of climate change on our future, then initiatives that include sustainability and waste reduction are all crucial to realising the Government goals of reducing New Zealand’s carbon emissions and reducing the effect humans have on the environment.

I will briefly touch on two major government policy initiatives most relevant to the theme of this conference.

1. Improving Waste Management

As you know, the Waste Minimisation Bill is currently going through Parliament.

The government wants New Zealand to become a sustainable nation. The passing of this new waste legislation will help in this work by changing the way we deal with waste.

The Bill will encourage all of us to deal with waste in a smarter, more co-ordinated way so that we are using our resources sustainably.

It puts a levy on all waste disposed of in a landfill, initially at $10 per tonne. The revenue from the levy will be used to help communities and businesses address waste issues.

But the Bill also goes beyond reducing the amount of rubbish we throw away. It will offer economic incentives and rewards so that businesses, councils and the public will find that reducing waste has a number of potential benefits. It can help save money because less material is used in the production of goods the first place; help New Zealand reduce its greenhouse gas emissions; and provide new business opportunities.

There is recognition that central government needs to provide clearer direction on how to minimise waste and on the balance to be struck between waste and recyclables. The Bill is there to encourage waste minimisation, and I am committed to ensuring that it does not serve as a barrier to those who are already out there reducing waste such as scrap recycling merchants.

Labour continues to engage with other parties around the finer detail but the Bill represents a major step forward in our thinking about waste and is both realistic and far-reaching. It will be a major step forward towards minimising the impact we have on the environment.

The new waste legislation builds on the progress made by the New Zealand Waste Strategy 2002 by putting more emphasis on investment in ‘front-of-pipe’ solutions. That means focusing on how we can reduce the potential for waste at the very beginning of the design process.

We need to encourage the most efficient use of materials so there is less waste generated from the production process rather than just managing the waste that results from it.

A key part of the Bill relates to product stewardship clauses. Product stewardship proposes to make producers, importers, retailers, consumers and other parties take responsibility for the environmental effects of their products – from ‘cradle-to-grave’. It is a tool with the potential to greatly improve how we deal with some of the more difficult wastes such as electronic goods.

The bill will assist and recognise businesses which develop voluntary product stewardship schemes and prove that they are taking steps to minimise environmental impacts from the manufacture, use and disposal of their product.

The bill will build on the good progress made by existing, voluntary schemes such as the Packaging Accord, Paintwise, Vodafone, Fisher and Paykel and Agrecovery.

In many cases, participants have been restricted on how far they can go to make their product sustainable. Free riders, a lack of waste recovery options and not enough recognition of the impact of waste minimisation have so far constrained efforts.

This bill enables product stewardship schemes to reach their full potential. Businesses will have the opportunity for commercial gains where their products and brands stand out in the market through improved efficiency and a proven commitment to the environment.

2. Emissions Trading Scheme

Climate change puts our wellbeing, our economy, our communities, our environment, and our way of life at risk. To protect them, we must rise to the sustainability challenge. We will need to both reduce our emissions and prepare for the physical impacts of climate change.

A cornerstone of our response on climate change is the proposed emissions trading scheme. This will create an incentive across the economy to reduce emissions. By building the emissions cost into a product or service, we will reward manufacturers and producers who reduce their emissions and encourage others to avoid increasing theirs.

The emissions trading scheme the government is supporting will cover all sectors of the economy and all gases included under the Kyoto Protocol. By covering all six greenhouse gases and all sectors of the economy, the scheme will encourage the least-cost emission reduction wherever it occurs in the economy.

This will help avoid distortions between different sectors in the economy and ensure the responsibility and costs of pollution are distributed fairly and effectively. Like the Waste Minimisation Bill, the scheme offers economic incentives and rewards for those who are working towards a greener, cleaner future.

Energy Strategy and Reduction Targets

Energy is vital to all aspects of our lives, and we often take for granted simple acts like turning on the light switch or starting the car. Yet our energy use is a major contributor to our greenhouse gas emissions.

A range of actions introduced under the New Zealand Energy Strategy and the New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy are directed at addressing sustainability and energy efficiency in both businesses and households.

In New Zealand, about 65 per cent of electricity is already generated from renewable sources. Through the New Zealand Energy Strategy, the government has set a goal that by 2025, 90 per cent of electricity will come from renewable sources.

To deliver on this, we are restricting the development of fossil fuel base load electricity generation for the next 10 years by proposing amendments to the Electricity Act. Those include a 10-year restriction on the construction of fossil fuel thermal generation above 10 MW whose fuel source contains more than 20 per cent fossil fuels.

This contrasts with the National Party’s energy policy that would see New Zealand continue down the same old path of non-renewable energy. By promoting the use of gas-fired electricity in particular, National ignores not just the fact renewable geothermal energy can fully provide New Zealanders with security of supply but the fact that a majority of electricity generators support the Labour-led government’s 2025 renewable energy target.

One of the risks of building large gas-fired power stations is that New Zealand's own supplies of gas may not be enough. It would be unfortunate if New Zealand got into a situation of having to import gas to produce electricity.

That would mean electricity prices linked to the price of gas on the world market, in much the same way our fuel prices are linked to the international price of oil, exposing New Zealand power consumers to fluctuations beyond this country's control.

Importing gas would further increase our current account deficit which is already negatively affected by the current world price of oil. We want this deficit to go down, we don't want to increase it even further by importing more fuel than we already do.

National tried to talk up an energy crisis this winter in an effort to persuade New Zealanders of the need to turn back the clock but Labour will not be distracted from its environmental goals, goals it believes have strong public backing. New Zealanders know climate change is real, not a hoax.

Labour has a vision of a clean, renewable energy sector and New Zealand is on track to achieving it.

The role of local government

Local government has a vital role to play as we focus on climate change and the issues we face as a result.

Earlier this month, the government released its proposed National Policy Statement on Renewable Electricity Generation. This statement will provide guidance to councils on what to consider when processing resource consent applications for renewable electricity generation projects under the Resource Management Act.

Providing better clarity on the government’s position on this issue should also help create more confidence for investors in renewable electricity generation projects.

Other work on issues such as sea level rise is now well advanced. The government will give guidance to territorial authorities to help identify and quantify the opportunities and risks of climate change and the impact things such as rising sea levels may have on infrastructure.

For example, earlier this month the Ministry for the Environment released a Coastal Hazards and Climate Change guidance manual. It is designed to provide local government and other decision makers with information on the key effects climate change could have on coastal communities and coastal infrastructure.

At the same time the Ministry has released Preparing for Climate Change which highlights the most up-to-date projections on how New Zealand’s environment could change with global warming. It demonstrates how to incorporate climate change into local government regulatory, assessment and planning processes.

The government is also assisting local government to develop and implement emission reduction activities through its Communities for Climate Protection programme funded by the Ministry for the Environment. At present there are 33 member councils connected with the programme, several of which are in attendance today.

Concluding remarks

Zero carbon, zero waste is a timely theme for this conference and you can see by our programme of work that the government has been focusing on introducing legislation to both address waste and climate change issues.

Your conference is beneficial in drawing people’s attention to how sustainability, climate change, resource use and recovery issues closely interweave.

If we as a country wish to achieve our waste free and climate neutral aspirations, we need to take personal responsibility for reducing our own waste and our own emissions. Each sector has things that it can do to reduce waste. While the government is taking steps in the major area of climate change, it is in the hands of all of us to do what we can to reduce our individual impact on the environment.

Thank you.


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